Saskatchewan fields grow jet biofuel
The skies over Ottawa are rumbling with the sound of a mid-sized business jet that’s propelled by the product of Saskatchewan fields.
Researchers are test-flying a Dassault Falcon 20 plane that burns a biofuel blend derived from modified seeds of the Ethiopian mustard plant, Brassica carinata.
The experiment could result in a more sustainable jet fuel for the world, and bring additional revenues to Prairie farmers.
The project is a collaboration among Agrisoma Biosicences Inc., the National Research Council (NRC), Honeywell UOP Inc. and Saskatoon’s Genome Prairie-led Prairie Gold project.
Brassica carinata is drought and heat tolerant and can be grown in areas not suited for canola, said Mejda Lortie, Agrisoma’s director of regulatory and government affairs.
The company’s variety of the plant, branded Resonance, is an oil feedstock that was grown near Kincaid, Sask., in the summer of 2011.
“It is a tough cookie,” she said. “It can grow in poorer soils or soil that doesn’t have the characteristics that would support, for example, canola production.”
Doug Heath, project manager with Genome Prairie, said Brassica carinata and another plant, Camalina sativa, are being developed for industrial uses.
Both are oilseeds and non-food crops.
“The goal is to grow both of these crops down in the Palliser Triangle area where traditionally canola wasn’t always a guaranteed crop,” Heath said. “Even though right now it takes a few more days to mature compared to canola, that’s fine down in southern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta.
The goal is to produce a more eco-friendly fuel.
The test flights, conducted in partnership with the NRC with funding from the Government of Canada’s Clean Transportation Initiatives, will evaluate the Resonance-based biojet fuel under a number of flight conditions to provide the world’s first ever real-time, inflight emissions measurements for a biojet fuel.
The tests are being done with a 50/50 blend of carinata jet fuel and petroleum-based fuel which is being used in a modified Dassault Falcon 20 twin-engined jet. A Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star chase plane equipped to measure inflight emissions while flying in formation will monitor emissions in real time, at altitude.
“It’s not just a jet engine on the ground making extrapolations on,” Heath said. “It’s actually measuring what’s coming out of the jet as it’s flying.”
“We all assume there is a reduction in greenhouse gases emissions, but nobody has really measured it in the atmosphere,” Lortie added. “This program is the first one that will using our jet fuel will be able to measure the emissions during a flight.”
The test flights are expected to be completed by early June and researchers will then analyze the results.
If they get positive results, Lortie said they will be looking to scale up production in the coming years.
“It is expanding the portfolio of some growers, especially in the southern parts of Saskatchewan, giving them an alternative to leaving their land on fallow,” she said.